Interview: Kelly Fornia

[Interview conducted by Phoebe Robertson 21/12/2021]

Alexander Kachfi, also known as Kelly Fornia is a Wellington-based Drag Performer and one of the city's largest producers of Drag Shows. I sat down with them, to talk not just about Slay Healthy, but how Covid-19 has impacted the Drag scene as a whole.

Going right back to January/February 2020, Kachfi admits that they were “still fairly oblivious” to the impact that Covid-19 was going to have on their life and “didn’t even think about the ramifications [that could happen].” Prior to the March 2020 lockdown, Kachfi had “never had to cancel a show before.” and “wasn’t prepared” for the number of shows they had to cancel throughout the lockdown (“6-7” throughout April, and only grew). EventFinda (the site Kacfi predominately uses to sell tickets to their gigs) didn’t have a postponement option in 2020, they only had the option to cancel gigs.  

Throughout the interview, Kachfi constantly noted the impact on other performers and the hurt that came from cancelling gigs for them as well. One of the original shows that Kachfi had to cancel was called a “Slay” – a reoccurring “massive dance party held at either Ivy or The Grand. And involves maybe 13-14 Drag Performers and an audience of maybe 200. It’s just a massive big drag dance party.” After having to cancel this event, Kachfi recognized that they had a number of performers who still wanted to do something. With the help of other Wellington Drag performers Selina Simone and Homer Neurotic, Kachfi took inspiration from the American Drag Scene which had started going digital with the online performance’s being live-streamed to platforms such as Twitch or Facebook Live. Eventually, the trio decided to open it up to everyone who wanted to “donate the time, or get some of the money that we were raising to send in a video of themselves performing from home.”  

On the first day, the campaign raised $1,000, and only skyrocketed from there. By the time Slay Healthy, a feature-length online drag show was released, over $10,000 had been raised to support members of Wellington's drag scene who lost income due to the lockdown. Kachfi says this was “way more than we ever expected.” Also, surprising was noticing names on the GiveaLittle page they didn’t recognize, people “who had heard about it from their friends” and donated to the cause. Kachfi also notes this was a really validating time in their Drag Career, a recognition of the love for the performers and that a way to recognize that “the art form [of Drag] was appreciated.”

After the success of Slay Healthy, and inspired by G.A.Y bars online-drag-shows titled Hump Day Humpy's, Kachfi started producing Fierce Fridays: free-to-view online Drag Shows that highlighted six Drag Performers each week who sent in a “homemade video”. They also doubled as further fundraising for the performers in each week’s ‘edition.’ The first couple of shows raised upwards of $900 dollars, and the later ones slipped to around $200. These Fierce Fridays were another way to help keep Drag Performers afloat during the lockdowns and closure of performance venues across Wellington.  

After the end of 2020’s lockdowns, Kachfi continued to produce live gigs through the end of the year and into 2021. Hit by another lockdown and changing Level Two restrictions, Kachfi notes the toll that this took on themselves and the performers they were booking. In late 2021, Kachfi announced their retirement from producing Drag Shows. When asked to expand on this, Kachfi explained that “most of [this decision] has been due to Covid. Just because there's no end in sight right now.” Explaining the difficulty of attempting to produce big shows such as tours around the country and a gig in the Wellington Opera House (which has already been postponed twice). Kachfi admits they are “… losing $50-60,000. So having that constant stress and pressure and fear that [the shows] are going to lose all this money and be in so much debt… That’s really deterred me from producing at the moment.” And in truth, they aren’t the only producer feeling this way. Notably, Hugo Grrrl Gigs, another Wellington-based production company doing Drag events, comedy, poetry and further performance gigs also disbanded at the end of 2021.  

While the story painted above is fairly bleak, Kachfi maintains that they “have hope” for the world and the Drag Producers coming into 2022. “Wellington Drag is going to be okay, going forward. Just as long as everyone sticks through Covid and goes down to support local drag every now and again. I think we’ll be okay.”  

A special thanks to Alexander for letting me interview them for this interview. If you’re interested in supporting Wellington Drag or seeing one of Alex’s final shows, you can find Kelly Fornia Productions here: 


Aotearoa NZ Theatre and Covid-19: A Timeline: 2020; 2021; 2022 | IMPACTS | INTERVIEWS | THEATRE SCENES